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Museum site showing solar eclipse

The Exploratorium science museum of San Francisco will carry live video on its Web site of the total solar eclipse.

If you can't make it to the southern Caribbean Sea next week to view the solar eclipse, try the Web instead.

The Exploratorium science museum of San Francisco will carry live video of the total solar eclipse next Thursday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. PT. The museum, Discovery Online, and NASA are staging a joint expedition to the southern tip of Aruba, which lies directly in the path of the eclipse's "path of totality," the area from which the view of the sun will be completely blocked by the moon.

The path of totality is never wider than 167 miles, according to Exploratorium Webmaster Ron Hipschman. Anyone situated outside the path will see the sun peeking around the edges of the moon. If that's the case, watchers should take care not to burn their retinas. (The Exploratorium has instructions for safe eclipse viewing.)

Despite the convenience of watching the eclipse on the Web, there is no substitute to watching it in person.

"No, it's not quite the same," said amateur astronomer Bruce Fraser, who is leaving for Venezuela this weekend to view the eclipse. "The dynamic range is so huge, there's no camera that can take it all in."

But for those who have to use the Web to participate, users need only Navigator or Internet Explorer 3.0 or higher. No plug-ins are necessary. There also will be a Webcast of a pre-eclipse discussion on Wednesday, February 25, at 7 p.m. PT.

According to the museum, the next total eclipse will occur in August 1999 and will cut a path across many cities in Europe including Paris, Munich, and Bucharest.